Saturday, November 20, 2010

WHY CATHOLICS LEAVE THE CHURCH

Catholics who become Protestants

When Catholics leave the practice of the Catholic Faith, they don't take these with them!

An April 2009 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life asked former Catholics why they left the church. Reasons for those who became Protestants included:

- Spiritual needs not being met: 71 percent

- Found denomination they liked more: 70 percent

- Just gradually drifted away: 54 percent

- Stopped believing in the church's teachings: 50 percent

- Married someone of a different faith: 29 percent

- Unhappy with teachings on abortion and homosexuality: 23 percent

- Unhappy with teachings on divorce, remarriage: 23 percent

- Clergy sex abuse scandal: 21 percent

- Unhappy with teachings on birth control: 16 percent

My comments:
I think this survey leaves out those who leave the Catholic Church and become "nones" meaning they don't join any other Christian denomination or other religion.

But what is helpful to me is to correct my own misconceptions about why people leave. The majority don't leave over the Church's moral teachings, even the more controversial ones, like birth control, homosexuality and same sex marriage, and the ordination of women.

The majority leave because their spiritual needs are not being met and they find a denomination they like more. The next largest group is the one that simply just drifts away.

If one's spiritual needs aren't being met, which in my mind would be the salvation of one's soul, then have our Catholic parishes emphasized the need for the Sacrament of Penance and made clear through the celebration of the Mass and the devotions which flow from it that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, is truly present through the celebration of Mass and in the most powerful sign of His Real Presence, in the actual bread and wine, that become His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity? It seems to me that if Catholics don't believe this and the way the Mass is celebrated doesn't really point to this powerful belief, then why stay a Catholic? Why not join a denomination whose primary "sacrament" is "Fellowship" and "warm fuzzies?"

In addition to making the celebration of the Mass a powerful sign of the awesome Real Presence of Jesus Christ, have parishes made clear the need for proper reverence and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle? To this question, we must also add another, just where is the tabernacle in the Church? Does its placement allow for the proper modeling of the respect and reverence that is due the Most Blessed Sacrament by genuflecting before our Lord's reserved Sacramental Real Presence and kneeling before our Lord in prayer?

In my previous assignment and now here at St. Joseph Church, the tabernacle is dead center. People genuflect when they walk in front of it and others witness this and know they should do the same. At the beginning of Mass and at the end of Mass, the priest and ministers genuflect before our Lord in the tabernacle. The entire congregation for Mass witnesses this.

In those churches where the tabernacle is hidden in a chapel away from the main church or placed off to the distant side where public acts of reverence are seldom seen by the entire congregation, it is no wonder that the majority of Catholics in those parishes are clueless about the reverence due the reserved Most Blessed Sacrament and the private prayers for spiritual needs that can be offered before our Lord's sacramental presence.


For the first two top reasons why Catholics leave the antidote is the proper and reverent celebration of the Mass, pulling out all stops at the main liturgy of Sunday and striving to make the parish hospitable and friendly, without using the Mass to accomplish the horizontal dimension of our relationship to one another. By this I mean, friendliness outside the Church and upon entering, but silence maintained in the nave of the Church for private prayer; opportunities for fellowship following Mass, at parish suppers and small group gatherings.

Eucharistic devotion outside of Mass must be rediscovered as well as the prominent display of the tabernacle in the sanctuary.

Finally, and flowing from this, must be a powerful devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. If a Catholic goes to a well celebrated and awesomely reverent Mass every Sunday, goes to confession regularly is praying before and offering adoration to the Most Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle and is praying the Holy Rosary daily, I doubt they will leave the Church. Their spiritual needs are being met! They are being saved!

Isn't salvation the whole reason for the Incarnation, birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, giving of the Holy Spirit and expected return of Jesus Christ? Is there some other reason for the Christ event that trumps the actual salvation event for all humanity and all of creation?

9 comments:

pinanv525 said...

I would like to know what people mean by, "not getting my spiritual needs met." Most often, my impression is that they want to be entertained or swaddled in shallow, sentimental, "feel good" langauge and smarmy preaching. Besides, whose fault can it be if one isn't getting spiritual needs met...the Church's? I think not...

pinanv525 said...

If I may...I am sick and tired of this needs based theology. Lapsing into my Calvinism, Christ met your "spiritual needs" on the Cross. Done.
The Church continues to do so by mediating Christ to you through the proper administering of the Sacraments and the teaching of "right belief..."yes, "right belief" is primary, whatever good works you may do, and in spite of our relativistic, post modern thinking, belief is still primary.

Now, everything else outside of these things has to do with emotional needs, not spiritual ones. People confuse the two. The Church does not owe you a party, psychotherapy, warm fuzzies, or a Mass resembling the Circque de Soleil! Get over it. You (we)spiritually need the Sacraments and good catechesis. And, it does not matter if the Priest is drab and boring, 110 years old, or can barely speak your language...or if he tap dances across the Sanctuary and turns a flip to the theme from Superman...if the Sacrament is properly blessed and the Word is properly administered (whatever the incidentals), then the Church teaches that Christ's Presence is real and efficacious. In other words, our silly choreography cannot vitiate the power of Christ. I prefer the traditional Mass and a dignified, classical approach. But, if my heart is right (and I have incredible patience), my "spiritual needs" are met at both the Traditional Mass and some dumb folk mass with hippies singing Kum Ba Ya. It ain't about your "needs."

Anonymous said...

As person who suffers from chronic analysism (ask Pinan525, he has counseled me frequently) I note that the last five 'reasons': married out of the faith, abortion and homosexuality, divorce, sex abuse, birth control, are important to less than 1/3 the responses. Not only are these hot button issues for church reformers and dissidents, they are variations on a theme of sexual (ir)responsibility.

The first four responses are at least 50% more important to the population and centre on the individual's relationship with God and how the Church aids in cultivating that relationship.

It would be interesting to test the age distribution of population that took the survey. I would bet that younger people were more interested in the first four and older baby boomer 'spirit of Vatican II' types were interested in the last five. The younger people have not been exposed to adoration, the rosary, and vigils very much. They have been exposed to posters placed under the Stations of the Cross asking them to meditate on various social injustices. They can get that anywhere so they look for it elsewhere.

rcg

OpusVeritas said...

As converts TO Catholicism, our family is Catholic precisely because we DID experience the ultimate truth of Jesus in the Eucharist & the unbroken Apostolic footprints of our Christianity bore strong testimony to this fullness of Truth. That being said & having spent more than 30 years as Protestant Christians who were heavily involved in youth & adult ministry as well as extensive foreign field missions work there ARE some very real reasons why many today leave the Catholic Church 'looking' for something more...

* While many Catholic Churches offer the Mass as intended, MANY others concelebrate with Parishioners, have liturgical dancing in the aisles, honey pita chunks as Eucharist & a Mass setting that is so liberal it makes us cringe to even think of it. These Masses are often the result of a liberal Bishops & Priests who are certain that all of this 'conservative nonsense' will end soon & are working hard to do their part to help that 'reality' come to pass. Conservative Catholics in our generation who are bothering to come to Mass WANT smells, bells, Priests in Cassocks & proper liturgy - we are not interested in the 'liberated way' that many cradle Catholics in the 45-70 crowd long for married priests & nuns who can celebrate Mass. We actually love our Pope & want our Catholic lives to have meaning & purpose - otherwise why bother in a world that has become increasingly pc, kumbayah & actually antagonistic to anything that smacks of organized Christianity (hence the rise of non-denoms in Protestant settings).

* Many Catholic Parishes do not know the truth about Jesus, the Mass, Sin, Reconciliation or much of anything else - again in large part because the Bishop of the Diocese or Parish Priest has rarely (or never) spoken on these subjects from the Ambo in any Homily he has ever given. In addition, many of these Homilies are often border on heresy & most certainly do not feed the flock in any meaningful way.

* Knowledge of Scripture & its importance in our daily lives is either severely lacking or absent altogether. We were very excited - and surprised - as Protestants to see the emphasis on Holy Scripture when we first began to attend Mass, but rare is the Parish that offers ongoing Bible Study programs for adults or encourages an ongoing study of Scripture outside of formulated programs such as the annual Renew, etc.
(more to come on post to follow this one)

OpusVeritas said...

(post continues)
* There is a significant dearth of adult programs that allow people ages 30-55 to get together regularly for relational purposes & yes, this IS an important element of human life & it DOES matter. To fellowship together socially as Catholics is important, especially for those who live in isolated areas where the Catholic presence is minimal & the Protestant presence is large. This area would include much of the South & other significant regions of our country as well. Most KoC & CCW type programs cater to the over 60 crowd & need serious re-vamping for a younger generation who are looking for new wine skins, not the previous generation's way of meeting socially.


* Youth Programs that are relevant to today's youth are lacking in many Parishes. Most families want & need to believe that their children are being catechized with truth in a relevant manner. As a professional educator with many years in the public schools I am very concerned with what I often see in our PRE programs. One truly needs to be a discerning parent & take a hard look at a lot of the programs out there - many of them are so frighteningly liberal that our children would actually have a firmer foundation in their faith by attending a Protestant Bible-based program of study followed up with good discussions at home. I am not advocating this, but we lose many Catholic families because we offer no engaging programs for youth & parents are looking for these programs whether we agree with their motives or not. In addition, many of our youth are not being challenged to live holy lives in our existing PRE programs & many parents are too uncatechized to know the difference. Having taught Confirmation programs for 7 years we have been appalled over & over again at the pablum we find in many PRE curricula & yet, when we take the time to properly catechize, we find youth who are excited & hungry for Jesus emerging from years of frightening misconceptions & untruth. We routinely teach 9 & 10th grade students raised entirely Catholic & whom have attended PRE programs since 1st grade who do NOT know even basic Bible Stories such as Adam & Eve or have EVER looked in a Bible for themselves let alone know what the four Gospels are or where to find them. Before we blame today's youth for apathy, we need to do a lot of finger pointing at our programs & ourselves.



There is so much more more to say on the subject of why people leave the Catholic Church, but it would take pages to write it all down. Let it suffice to say that we Catholics need to take a good hard look at our own Churches & face the reality that we have strayed far, far away from Truth in many cases & places.


In today's world, where there are few ethical restraints & little regard for organized faith in any form or fashion, we need to realize that the more boldly we proclaim Truth from our Bishops on down to the Laity, the more Truth will take root in our daily lives. When our family visits the rare Catholic Church that is packed to the rafters with younger families, these Parishes are almost always conservative settings with traditional, liturgically sound Masses, strong Priests who love Jesus, programs that meet needs of those under 60 & a solid youth ministry program. Sadly, many Catholic Churches do NOT look like this & this is - in my opinion - a large reason why so many no longer see the need to 'bother' with Catholicism.

Anonymous said...

I was an Evangelical for twelve years before coming home to the Catholic Church. The reason I did was my need to join a Christian denomination that had deep roots. One that is not still trying to find fresh answers to theological/spiritual questions. That said, protestant churches and Evangelical or non-denominational churches are light-years ahead of the Catholic Church or mainline Protestant churches when it comes to providing practical, Biblically-based instruction on how to live a Christian life through sermons. How to's such as parenting, handling finances, being a good spouse, or a good employee...a friend. Not to mention Christian basics like what is in the Bible.

From a newbies perspective (and one who married a Catholic), it seems the church thinks that its members received the practical training above in CCD when they were ten and therefore can move on to high minded stuff about the blessed sacrament and how important the sacrifice of the mass is. Yes, those are necessary, but they don't amount to a hill of beans to a person who is struggling to be a good parent or friend or spouse.

I've often thought that being Catholic is the big leagues for Christians. I'm not sure I'd have any idea about my faith as a Christian (i.e. knowing Christian theology, the books of the Bible, stories in the Old and New Testament) if I wasn't a Protestant first. You never learn any of this stuff at mass. I learned a tremendous amount about how to walk a Christian life through the Bible's eyes in Evangelical churches. It's practical and dealt directly with being the kind of Christian talked about in the Book of James.

And if you don't know what the Book of James says about being a Christian life you prove my point.

pinanv525 said...

Anonymous,
"Out of James 1:22
Comes a call for Christians true
Who would live by Christ the Living Word.
Listen to this Gospel call,
That goes out to one and all,
'Be ye doers of the Word.'
Be ye doers, not hearers only, Be ye doers of the Word."

Of course, Luther referred to James as "the Epistle of straw..." And not without reason. Belief is still primary.

Your statement regarding the relative emphasis upon faith vs works can be argued all day to no avail. The preaching of the Word has always been the primary Sacrament for most Protestant denominations. However, preaching appeals only to the analytical, left-hemispheric side of the brain and this has led to a de-emphasis upon the Mystery and an over-emphasis upon intellectualism and rationalization in theology.

My experience has been that the Catholic Church leaves Protestantism in the dust with regard to the richness of the devotional life and the opportunities for living daily in the awareness of Christ and His love and mercy to us.

And, Anonymous, is it really the Church's job to teach us how to be good parents? We learn that from our parents and community role models and only indirectly from the Church through her teaching us to live the Christian life daily.

The Church's primary concern is, and always has been, with the salvation of souls. This also includes the Protestant denomination but, gradually, post reformation theology became more and more oriented toward matters of the Christian life and less so towards the salvation of souls and right belief. The culmination of this was in 19th century neo-protestantism, which totally submerged Christology into ethics. This is bad. The protestant main line churches that require seminary attendance for ordination continue to suffer under the products of this type of theological education. It is called, more succinctly, unbelief. This has filtered into the protestant lay person's every day theology without many of them understanding what has happened.

The "lower church" protestants and the sects have Biblically based theology and preaching, but it is, sadly, Biblically illiterate. Mostly it degenerates into sentimentalism and legalism which, oddly enough and on a much more sophisticated plane, is exactly what happens the seminary based main stream protestant church's theology. You cannot separate faith from works, not can you build an ethic that is separate from Christology. The Catholic Church is fighting, as we write, for her existence as the Church we know on this very same field. That is waht all this "reform of the reform" business is about. Fr.'s blog is right in the middle of it.

Finny71 said...

Pinanv525...
You wrote, "My experience has been that the Catholic Church leaves Protestantism in the dust with regard to the richness of the devotional life and the opportunities for living daily in the awareness of Christ and His love and mercy to us."
I couldn't agree more. Like I said above, I think the Catholic Church is the big leagues for the Christian faith.

You also wrote "is it really the Church's job to teach us how to be good parents?" In an America where 50% of marriages end in divorce--including the Christian ones!--yes, I think the church has a primary mission to do that. The community you speak of is gone I think, sadly. The stats are much better for Christians who practice regularly and learn how to walk with GOD.

And..."but, gradually, post reformation theology became more and more oriented toward matters of the Christian life and less so towards the salvation of souls and right belief."
I really have to disagree with you here. I think one major problem, especially in evangelical churches, is the complete focus on Salvation and not enough on the practical day to day "walking with GOD" that there should be. Accepting Jesus into your heart on one day and then returning to the heathen you were the next moment is a sign of a lack of any change in one's faith. Just as James says.


The church would do well to come up with a response to those who leave it for a lack of relevance. Small group development. RCIA for adults who are Catholic (my sponsor during my RCIA formation repeatedly said "I don't remember that" repeatedly, and this was my cradle Catholic, elite Catholic school k-12 wife.

I guess the church needs to deside what its going to do: "go out and preach the gospel!"; or "Hey you who want to be here? It's your job to figure this stuff out because we're not going to slow down and explain it to you.

God Bless

pinanv525 said...

Hi Finny,
Regarding my statement on post Reformation theology, I was speaking of seminary based theology and the education of ministers. This filters down to the lay folk in many subtle ways. What you say is correct regarding many protestant churches, especially the "low-church" crowd. Theologically, however, neo- Protestant theolgy, as Neighbur said, "leads men without sin into a Kingdom without judgement through a Christ without a cross."